The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Young Girl With The Bright Eyes

Posted by Cate on August 5, 2008

Teen and child beauty pageants have long been a source of consternation for feminists and those who write about the sexualisation of children and the erosion of childhood as younger women are painted and decorated in mimicry of adult women in ways that cause many of us who have far left childhood behind to react with a combination of disgust, pity for the child, and awe that anyone could be bothered with the maintenance.

Here’s one of the latest from the UK tabloid The Daily Mail.

Picture by Jeff Morris, featured in this article. This pic reminded me of that publicity shot for American Beauty where Mena Suvari is lying in a bath of roses. That disturbs me.

The article titled “Mummy’s little Lolita: The 11 year old girl whose beauty treatments cost 300 pounds a month to make her look like Barbie” features 11 year old Sasha Bennington who enjoys a $650 a month beauty regime which includes hair extentions, fake nails, fake tan, make up and a pierced belly button.

I’m not exactly a fan of The Daily Mail for honest, truthful, accurate journalism (all subjective words I appreciate). Nor do I hold British tabloids as the arbiters of morality and social standards. But I had to agree with journo Jenny Johson when she asks:

What sort of mother wants her daughter to look like a doll? The image I have in my head is of Exorcist Barbie…

Mum Jayne aged 31 (younger than me sadly) is a former ‘glamour model’ who considers former glamour model Jordan preferable to Britney Spears and comments:

‘I don’t understand why people get so upset about it. None of it is permanent. Tans wash off. Hair extensions come out. Why all the fuss?’

The family have been recently filmed in a BBC documentary about Sasha’s adventures in the US as she compete with other pre-teens in a Texas beauty pageant.

I can’t help thinking, is that the best you can do? What if you aspired for your daughter to be a doctor or artist or politician, some kind of career where she uses her mind for more than colour combinations and her make up choices? Can’t you aim a bit higher? Or am I being horribly classist? Are the faux representations of women the young girls mimic more authentic than I realise? Jordan is after all a “businesswoman”.

Further, can a child of 11 be making active free willed choices or are her aspirations based on the possibilities she sees as attainable? Is my suspicion of stage mothering overly simplistic?

And if you are wondering what happened when child beauty pageants grow up, you might enjoy Painted Babies at 17 a BBC Radio 4 documentary which revisited 17 year old women who previously appeared in a documentary following the fortunes of two five-year-old entrants in a junior beauty pageant in America’s deep south. Disturbing stuff.


3 Responses to “Young Girl With The Bright Eyes”

  1. hannahcolman said

    It’s ironic that the mother says ‘None of it is permanent.’ I dare say that what will be permanent is Sasha’s perception of herself in the sense that she has to spend money to make herself look “good”…
    Also, the classest argument is interesting. I suppose a lot of children and stage mothers that are involved in pageants are there because they see instant, aesthetic results when they pour money into makeup/hair/costumes. Whereas to study for the sake of securing a career is a much longer process and the results are not visible for years. At the outset this seems unattainable to a lot of people.

  2. mscate said

    Yes this was kinda what I was struggling with. Short term versus long term gain involves some (financial) luxury of choice that many may not have access to. Bit like the contention that motherhood can be an attractive option for young women who lack the opportunity to gain status through higher education and career aspirations.

  3. Cuz_I'm_the_Mom said

    I hate when the pageant moms try to justify their silliness. Just install a mini stripper pole in your basement for little Brittney to practice on and let’s all be HONEST about the entire enterprise already!

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